Why Timon in Magdalen Hall?
Gabriel Rolfe (Director): The Magdalen Players began brainstorming what kind of material suited the uniquely immersive potential of the space of the Hall, and Timon was chosen largely owing to the two dramatically explosive banquet scenes, with the natural spatial drama of Magdalen’s Medieval Hall and high table. I never considered the hall as a period space, there was no intention of this being in Elizabethan Dress.
So what is the aesthetic you’re going for?
Gabriel: If you read Timon, despite the obvious setting in the title there is a dream-like symbolical quality to experiencing the story. I always read it as less of a character history and more of a parable, a tragic fairy-tale.
Frank Lawton (Producer): With the advent of a champagne reception all nights and banquet laid-on at the two Gala nights, we’re bringing the audience into Timon’s opulent court to create a sensory and sensual immersion.
You’ve mentioned ‘immersion’ a couple of times. What exactly do you mean by that?
Gabriel: Any great piece of theatre should immerse you but we’re talking specifically about promenade theatre, which overtly blurs the line between audience and performance.
Frank: And when we say blurring the line we mean that the audience will remain observant and won’t just be a passive witness; they will be incorporated into the aesthetic of the show, as guests sat at Timon’s banquet tables.
What do you expect or want an audience’s reaction to this to be?
Tom Dowling (Timon): The heart of Timon’s character is the question of whether he is a prideful attention-seeker who deserves what he gets (you’ll see he isn’t over-punished for his misdeed), or ultimately a tragic character whom the audience can feel for. I’m trying to keep those two potential aspects of his character in balance, so they’ll be an element of individual reaction, as opposed to an overwhelming drive for a unified audience response.
Gabriel: The play Timon of Athens’s original power lies in a disorientating cocktail of satire and tragedy. Our intention is for that to remain. It’s a play about the possibility of our empathy with dramatic characters. Moreover, the parallels with our innately opulent context here in Oxford are something I want the audience to consider.
So do you consider yourselves social critics in staging this play in the manner you are doing?
Gabriel: Without me speaking for anyone else involved in the show and rather than using those terms specifically, there’s no reason to be embarrassed about art or theatre’s potential to make us think about the wider life we are all living here. But this is as much as anything a visceral artistic project and a form of escapism for all of us.
Finally, why should we come and see it?
Frank: Champagne, banquets, drag queens, gold, a Medieval hall, a late night show, an incredibly ambitious lighting set-up and some of Shakespeare’s most potent verse, all mixed to make what we hope will be an affecting, special evening.
Timon of Athens runs 21st May-24th May (Wed-Sat of 4th Week). Opening and last nights are Gala nights (inc. champagne and banquet food). Tickets can be bought via the Facebook page ‘Timon of Athens Magdalen Hall Show’, or directly from wegottickets.com. Prices start at £7.